HC Deb 26 April 1972 vol 835 cc1532-4
21. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now set up a National Land Agency to centralise information on the availability of land suitable for residential development.

Mr. Peter Walker

No, Sir. I consider that this can best be done on a regional basis.

Mr. Hunt

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that reply will be received with disappointment in areas like Bromley by young people who have been watching the escalation of land and house prices with growing dismay and despair? Is he aware that recently the idea was floated of a revised Domesday Book and that this idea had a favourable reception? Will he therefore think again about this?

Mr. Walker

I think my hon. Friend has misunderstood my answer. What I said was that this matter would be better dealt with on a regional basis—for example, land problems in the South East are different from those in any other region. I am in favour of the Domesday Book concept for the South East.

30. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his assessment of the results of the measures taken about land prices, and on the latest measure that he has taken.

34. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is satisfied with the amount of building land that has been made available by urban authorities in response to his request; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

Now that demand has been stimulated we are considering further initiatives to promote the release of building land and decisions will be announced shortly.

Mr. Willey

The Secretary of State will not want to anticipate tomorrow's discomfiture. Meanwhile, is he aware that his unsympathetic inactivity is aggravating the land prices scandal which is already worse than that prior to the 1964 election?

Mr. Walker

As for my discomfiture tomorrow, there is only one year in recent years when land prices went up faster than last year, and that was 1969, when the policies of the right hon. Gentleman as the Minister responsible for land were having their full effect.

Mr. Idris Owen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the response to his excellent Circular 10/70 has been rather disappointing?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. I think that these matters take time. In terms of areas of main land pressure—the Midlands and the South East—there are indications that our policy of pursuing sensible regional planning strategies is having some success.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is it not increasingly obvious that the only effective way of stopping this rocketing of land prices is some form of public ownership in order to give local authorities the power to take over land at its existing use value—that is, at its agricultural value—at the time that planning permission is given rather than letting it increase in value up to tenfold once planning permission is given?

Mr. Walker

I am sure that the House has witnessed how the nationalisation of resources such as coal, electricity and gas has resulted in the stabilisation of prices?

Mr. Evelyn King

For the benefit of those of us who are genuinely anxious to establish the cause, will my right hon. Friend accept that one of the major difficulties is the absence of statistics? When one asks how much land has been released in this or that area in the last year or the year before, his Department does not know. Though it is not my right hon. Friend's fault, will he do what he can to remedy this?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. That is why in a number of regions of the country it is necessary to establish a situation in which more details are given to the public and developers about the land available.